Surprise over the ridge

19 01 2009

Hello, my name is TJ, and I am addicted to the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin.

The lessons have been both big and small, but I learn something new about them almost every time I visit, and though two different people last week suggested I need to get a life (away from the horses, I think they meant), almost nowhere else do I find such enjoyment as in the simplicity of days in the wild of the basin. And so I can’t seem to stay away. They mean well, I think, but what other addiction is so healthy and enjoyable and full of benefit?

Perfect nap weather

Perfect nap weather

Steeldust and his big band and Hollywood and the bachelors were out between the loop road and Knife Edge. I was able to drive in and park at the water catchment. (Kreacher and the girls were down in the “valley” southwest of the catchment.) Mouse was close to the band, as he has been in recent months; Duke, Hook and Chrome were fairly close; and Hollywood and Comanche were scrapping a little farther away. Yep, you already guessed the change-up if you know which horses weren’t visible – because they were together. But given that they were all together the last time I saw them, I didn’t think too much about it and stayed on track to visit Steeldust’s band. Oh, notice Butch’s position – he’s lying down at far left. He looks like he’s so sleepy he’s about to roll over on Ember. In the next few moments, he did. They were so close, she had to lift her head over his when he laid his big head on the ground at her knees.

Harrassment

Harrassment

Where have you seen this pose before? Baby brother Storm was trying this with big sister Ember a few weeks ago (at least). In fact, the butt in the background is hers. Pinon was quite a bit more tolerant, but Storm also seemed a bit half-hearted. In fact, here, I love that he seems so focused on me but is still pawing at Pinon – what a multi-tasker!

Three boys

Three boys

Pinon, Storm and Butch. You can see Ember’s face in the background – flat-out asleep – and that’s Luna behind Butch.

Sentinel Duke

Sentinel Duke

Meanwhile, Duke was on a ridge above the band, taking it all in.

Hook and Chrome

Hook and Chrome

McKenna and the unnamed peaks in the background.

Lover boy

Lover boy

Meanwhile, Steeldust squeezed in a little lovin’ on Alpha-girl. She accepted it – for a few moments – then struck at him and led Storm away. Easy come, easy go, buddy.

Three more boys

Three more boys

Hook and Chrome hooked up with Duke, then they went across the ridge to a little point, where they could look down on the band.

I could see Hollywood on a ridge below, but Comanche had dropped out of sight, and I still hadn’t seen Aspen, Piedra and Baylee. I still hadn’t put it together. I climbed a little higher to make sure no one was on the other side of the highest ridge and found a dry spot for a little lunch break. Then I went down to Hollywood. Found Comanche … and, on the other side of the ridge below Hollywood … Aspen and the girls.

Uh-oh

Uh-oh

My first glimpse of change: Hollywood on the ridge (I’m shooting from a ridge parallel to his) and Aspen below with the missing mares. How did I not see that coming? Prior knowledge can be blinding.

All together

All together

Same five horses that have been together since before the holidays … a little change in dynamic. That’s Comanche and Hollywood together in the foreground, and Aspen, left, Piedra, back center, and Baylee in the background.

New lead guy

New lead guy

I gotta say I’m not liking this change. I’m pretty fond of Hollywood, and he’s a better stallion than Aspen, not to mention that Aspen was low on the totem pole among the bachelors. Not as low as Kreacher but maybe above Hook. What is it with these lesser stallions getting the girls?

Snow snack

Snow snack

After most of the past year keeping Mouse at bay, Hollywood loses his mares (and he got not one but two!) to Aspen?! Now, if Holls has a fault as a band stallion, it may be that he’s not always as attentive as he should be, especially with several footloose bachelors on the prowl. Nobody seems to be hurt, so I’m thinking it might have been as simple as Hollywood not paying attention and Aspen sneaking in and snaking the girls away.

The proof

The proof

I watched them for quite a while. Because these five horses have been separate from the big band and together for at least the past several weeks, I figured it was possible that I just happened along at a point in time when the girls just happened to be closer to Aspen than to Hollywood. But Aspen definitely was acting like the band stallion, so for now at least, Aspen is king.

Five in a line

Five in a line

There they are – my look back as I was leaving (the snaking actually came right after this). Hollywood, left, Comanche on the other side of a low ridge, Baylee, Piedra and Aspen. Piedra, by the way, should have Hollywood’s foal this spring (sometime in April); I think it will be her first.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Bounce, Alegre and Gaia and/or Poco, Bones and Roach because back in that area by Knife Edge is one of their stomping grounds (P, B & R are usually a little farther east), but I didn’t see hide nor hair of those ponies. After I left Aspen’s band, I headed toward the intersection on the loop road that goes to Round Top. Earlier, while walking the road, before cutting off toward Steeldust’s band, I saw horses that I’m pretty sure were Seven, Molly and Roja up on the saddle area between Round Top and Flat Top. No sign of them on the way back, either. I crossed the road and headed toward Flat Top to close my loop back to the Jeep, also hoping I might see Traveler; they were on the west side of Flat Top the last time I saw them. A long shot, sure, but worth a look.

Kreacher and the girls were still down in the little valley but a little closer to the road when I got back. I was plenty tired at that point (another five-plus hours of adventure walking), so I didn’t go out to them. They watched me go by, then went back to grazing. I was glad to see them branching out from their north hills territory.

The only cattle I saw were northwest of the dugout intersection by the hills above Spring Creek and northeast of the finger hills.

It was a gorgeous day, and I hiked without a coat. There was only a very light breeze. You can’t get much closer to perfect. Quite a bit of snow, and with snow and clear blue-bird skies comes mud. The coolest thing is that you can actually hear the snow melt (see what I mean about simple pleasures?). The ponies take it in stride and use it to their advantage. It’s much easier for them to just gobble mouthfuls of snow when they’re thirsty than have to travel to known water sources. They seemed to enjoy it, and in the next post, I’ll have a nifty shot of Traveler to illustrate just how much!

The crazy thing is that I almost left that evening because the walking was so tiring. But I hadn’t seen my boy Grey (Traveler), and I just am so addicted that I couldn’t leave without seeing him. It took all day Sunday, but I found him and his family. 🙂 Stay tuned.


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